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Sunderbans: Hindu devotees worship Muslim goddess to protect them from Tigers

The terrain is hard to live on and the native people rely on Bon Bibi to help them through the hardships

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Goddess Bonbibi
Goddess Bonbibi in Sunderbans. Image source: beingkinetic.wordpress.com
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  • Bon Bibi is the “Lady of the Forest”
  • She protects travelers and workers in the jungle
  • Bon Bibi reminds the people not to take more than they need

Bon Bibi is the “Lady of the Forest.” She is the protector of those who venture into the nature setting. The story goes that she was brought to the Netidhopani forest, which is located in the western edge of Sundarbans jungles. History says, that she hails from Saudi Arabia and her father, who was a trader, left her in the forest. It was her step-mother who requested that the child be left in the forest, and her father followed orders.

Later on, she became the protector of all who enter the forest. It makes no difference if you are Muslim, Hindu, or Christian; all who enter the forest pay their respects to Bon Bibi. Bhabotaron Paik the forest guard says, “Each time we go to the jungles we make a promise to Ma Bon Bibi: that we will not take more than we require from the forest, or else we antagonise her”.

Bon Bini statue resting in a tree in the forest. Wikimedia Images.
Bon Bini statue resting in a tree in the forest. Wikimedia Images.

According to Firstpost.com, Bon Bibi’s temple is at the entrance of the forest preserve that Paik works at. Every day, as part of his routine, he first visits the temple and pays his respects. Nearby there is a small freshwater pond that the forest department constructed for wildlife. The Bengal tigers, frequent this area that is across from a heavily fenced in office area.

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A board near the water has postings that tell the usual hours that the tigers come to drink. The pug marks and cameras located at the watch towers can track their movements. Years ago, all of these efforts were futile when Debnath Mondal, a tiger rescuer, was attacked by a tiger near to Bon Bibi’s temple, said the Firstpost.com report.

At night it is pitch black. Theater performers reenact the story of Bon Bibi, and many gather near the shrines to watch the performances. To them, it is also a way to show their respect to Bon Bibi and show the solidarity among everyone. Many keep statues of the deity in their bags, or somewhere on their person. Nityanand Roy Karmakar, a forest ranger, says “The goddess enlightens people to go back as soon as their requirement is fulfilled, that is keeping the order of the jungles.”

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The terrain is hard to live on and the native people rely on Bon Bibi to help them through the hardships. Freshwater and saltwater are constantly mixing and dry areas get washed away by large waves. This makes it difficult to draw boundaries and put up fences to divide humans and nature; forcing them to coexist. The people in the area never hesitate to thank Bon Bibi for all she does.

-prepared by Abigail Andrea, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @abby_kono

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  • Aparna Gupta

    This is an example of religious harmony despite of increasing religious tensions in our country.

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USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

The real test is how quickly they will act on those words.

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illegal wildlife trade
Thai Navy officers and forestry officials display seized dead tigers, leopards and pangolins in That Phanom district of Nakhon Phanom province, northeastern Thailand. VOA

The United States and dozens of other countries have pledged to work together to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and treat it as a “serious and organized crime” following a two-day conference in London that ended Friday.

Trade in endangered wildlife, such as elephant tusks, rhino horns and tiger bones, is worth an estimated $17 billion a year and is pushing hundreds of species to the brink of extinction.

Speaking to heads of state from across the world, Britain’s Prince William, a passionate conservationist, said he recognized that law enforcement resources are already stretched in many countries.

illegal wildlife trade
Britain’s Prince William gestures as he makes speech at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London. VOA

“But I am asking you to see the connections, to acknowledge that the steps you take to tackle illegal wildlife crime could make it easier to halt the shipments of guns and drugs passing through your borders,” the prince told delegates.

Worldwide, the illegal wildlife trade is booming.

Illegal ivory trade activity has more than doubled since 2007, while over 1,300 rhino were killed in 2015. Asian tigers have seen a 95 percent decline in population, as their body parts are in demand for Chinese medicines and wine. In the last year, more than 100 wildlife rangers have died trying to tackle poachers.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the conference the U.S. will give $90 million to programs that fight illegal wildlife traffickers.

illegal wildlife trade
Seized wild birds are seen inside a cage at a news conference by police officers following a bust on illegal wildlife trade, in Kunming, Yunnan province, China. VOA

“Their criminal acts harm communities, degrade institutions, destabilize our environment and funnel billions of dollars to those who perpetuate evil in the world. These criminals must be and they can be stopped,” Sessions said.

It is not only big mammals at risk.

For example, a critically endangered water frog from the remote Lake Titicaca in Peru has seen its numbers plummet in recent years, as thousands have been trapped and taken to make a juice that some believe has medicinal properties, despite no scientific evidence.

Delegates at the conference applauded progress made, including China’s decision at the beginning of this year to close its domestic ivory market, hailed as a major step in safeguarding the world elephant population.

Aron White of the Britain-based Environmental Investigation Agency says other animals need similar protection.

“This market was both stimulating demand for ivory and also enabling illegal ivory to be laundered through this legal trade,” White told VOA. “But that same issue still exists for big cats. You know, there’s a trade in leopard bone products [for example], large-scale commercial trade.”

Campaigners say existing United Nations Conventions on transnational organized crime offer firepower for tackling the illegal wildlife trade, but they are not being used effectively.

In the closing declaration, conference attendees pledged to work together to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and recognize it as a serious and organized crime.

Also Read: Salman Khan Sentenced to Five Years In Poaching Case, Others Acquitted

The real test is how quickly they will act on those words. (VOA)